I’m something of a meatball snob, growing up in a Sicilian family and all. And although I’d probably get an argument or two, my wife’s meatballs are the best!
She uses all the normal ingredients: ground beef and pork, chopped onions, garlic, salt, oregano, pepper, eggs… But she adds an ingredient often missing… old bread and breadcrumbs. She picked this up from my mother. She wets the bread and kneads it into the meat, then adds plenty of seasoned breadcrumbs.
This is what sets her meatballs apart. Without this key ingredient, the meatballs are too dense and meaty and can’t soak up the sauce as they sit simmering in it for a few hours. I’m sorry they just don’t have the right consistency or taste right.
The same goes for Christian living. The Christian life is impossible to live without the key ingredient of the Holy Spirit. Without him it’s unpleasant work: too dense and hard to chew. Without the Spirit’s help you just can’t taste the delicious flavor of God’s grace.
What’s the Holy Spirit’s primary goal in your life? What recipe is he cooking up? Well he’s cooking up something more important than any personal spiritual experience or spiritual gift or even ministry. His main goal is to transform you and make you like Jesus.
And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image. (2 Corinthians 3:18)
Now this isn’t some fast food meal. This recipe takes the master chef, the Holy Spirit, time to prepare. This transformation happens gradually as you cultivate a cooperative relationship with the Spirit. Paul put it this way…
So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh… Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. (Galatians 5:16,25)
The phrase, “Keeping in step”, reminds me of ballroom dancing which is all about cooperation, relinquishing control to the lead partner and paying attention to him. And as you do ordinary, everyday, life becomes more appetizing and ‘flavorful’. It begins to give off the aroma of Christlikeness.
How do you know if you’re cooking with the key ingredient of cooperating with the Spirit? Ask yourself: “Am I becoming more loving, joyful, peaceful, gentle, patient, kind, good, and under self-control? …Am I finding myself becoming a more grateful and appreciative person even in difficult circumstances? …Do I have a growing sense of peace, all because I’m learning to trust God’s goodness?”
The good news is that you don’t have to work hard at this on your own. The Holy Spirit does the work of flavoring your life as you add the other ingredients of exercising faith, participating in church community, doing your best to obey God’s Word and live a life formed around prayer. It’s the Holy Spirit’s responsibility to transform us and produce the life of Christ in your life.
However there are at least four ways you can mess up this recipe:
The first way is caused by ignorance. For some, the Holy Spirit is a stranger because they’ve had little or no instruction in regard to who he is and how he works. You’re cooking without the key ingredient.
The second is putting up with the presence of willful, continued sin in your life. By refusing to cooperate you’re collaborating with an enemy! This grieves the Spirit Paul wrote:
And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. (Ephesians 4:30)
As a result it becomes impossible for you to enjoy his presence and power.
The third way is fear. When Paul writes, “…be filled by the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18), he’s referring to the issue of surrendering control to the Spirit. Now the idea of losing control is frightening to many of you. You’re afraid that if you hand over control to the Spirit he might turn you into a weird fanatic or force you to take a vow of poverty or worse, a vow of celibacy. So you “quench” him (1 Thessalonians 5:19). In other words you stifle or resist or put out the fire of his work in your life, rendering him unable to help you.
The fourth way and perhaps the most prevalent is apathy. Simply because you just don’t want to change. The old Puritan, William Law wrote, “Most Christians are just as holy as they intend to be.” Truth is, the only thing that can keep you from being transformed into Christ’s likeness is you! The only people that mess up the recipe are people who don’t want excellent meatballs – those that insist on being contrary; that cook without the key ingredient. They insist on living the Christian life their own way rather than cooperating with the Spirit.
What sort of life are you cooking up? Are you trying to throw together the delicious, abundant life Jesus offers without the key ingredient of cooperation? It’s the wrong recipe. It’s just won’t taste right. Try allowing yourself being “filled” with the Spirit again, bringing your life under the Spirit’s control by giving him more room to operate in your life and see if your life doesn’t become more flavorful.